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Genomics reveals secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls


The discovery in Qumran more than sixty years ago of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls had an immense impact on the historical understanding of Judaism and Christianity.

Prof. Oded Rechavi, Edmond J. Safra affiliate, together with colleagues from Israel, Sweden and USA used genomics to analyze them. Since the parchments on which the scrolls were written were made of animal skins, the researchers sequenced tiny pieces of many scroll fragments.

This allowed them to disambiguate relationships between fragments, and to discover that some scrolls were in fact brought from outside Qumran. These findings contribute to the understanding of the broad cultural milieu of Qumran and Greco-Roman Judea. Due to the complexity of this study, the researchers have developed particularly sensitive research methods with careful screening of possible genomic contaminations and statistical validation of the findings.

The study was published in the prestigious journal Cell, which selected it for its cover page.

» Original publication

Source: Tel Aviv University